Final year of $3 million PEP grant

Shad Kraftson, Distribution Reporter

Stillwater was the only school in Minnesota and one of 60 in the country to get the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant in 2013. They say the third time is a charm, but it was the fourth time the district applied.

The grant gives $2 million over the course of three years and this is the final year. The program has three goals: improve physical education, increase nutrition and develop a way to monitor success. Part of the initiative was to give PE teachers more opportunities.

“Some of our teachers hadn’t gone to a professional development opportunity for almost 19 years so that part was really important,” PEP grant coordinator Deb Van Klei said. Physical education teacher Mark Elmer added “[the PE teachers] have had a lot of training in different techniques.”

There’s a lot of excitement in the phy-ed department because there’s a lot of new cool equipment. Kids are able to track what their heart rates are just by looking at a board.”

— Ryan Bartosiewski

Physical education

The idea is that PE does not just make students healthier and fit, but that the benefits of physical activity extend into the classroom.

“Out of that 40 minute class period at least 20 minutes should be at a moderate or vigorous level so when you go to your next class, you’re really absorbing information and staying focused,” Van Klei said.

With more training and new equipment, like pedometers and heart rate monitors, for teachers, the PE and health programs have had great success.

“There’s a lot of excitement in the phy ed department because there’s a lot of new cool equipment. Kids are able to track what their heart rates are just by looking at a board,“ PE teacher Ryan Bartosiewski said.

Due to the improvements and cutting edge curriculum, other districts are looking at Stillwater as a model for their classes.

“We had about 15 schools visit our PE program from other school districts to see what we’re doing,” Van Klei said. “We will as of April, presented at three national conventions,” she added.

Nutrition

Another big part of the grant and HealthyMOVES initiative is nutrition. Just as PE has effects in the classroom, nutrition does too. This argument was made in defense of disallowing donuts during BLAST week.

“I’m sure there were questions about donuts, but if we’re truly about improving academics, what you fuel your brain with matters,” Van Klei said.

Part of the work being done with nutrition is in the lunchroom. The renovations for 2017 will bring a remodeling of the cafeteria and with a new nutrition supervisor, Julie Powers, the menu could also get remodeled.

“We’re working with her to look at lunches, our vending machines and what we offer during the day,” Van Klei said. “We would love to start a student advisory group that gets to have a voice,” she added.

The Future

The hope is that the projects from the PEP grant will have an impact in the future and in students’ entire lives. Despite the money running out, the district will still promote health and wellness.

“They say the more basic motor skills a person has, the more likely they are physically active later in life,” Van Klei said. “I don’t know if we’re going to get there, but what if we brought kayaking or canoes into our curriculum?”